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New Buy American Provisions Built Into Infrastructure Law

Stephanie Salmon

The bipartisan infrastructure law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15, contains several Buy America provisions of interest to U.S. metalcasters that supply castings to the federal government and to public works projects.

The following key new Buy America provisions are contained in the act:

  • Every federal agency is required to apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded public works and infrastructure projects, within 180 days of the law’s enactment. Agencies cannot provide federal financial assistance for a project “unless all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States.” Currently, Buy America rules have not been fully implemented with respect to all federal programs that provide grants for the construction of infrastructure. This represents an expansion of domestic preferences for infrastructure projects.
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must issue guidelines “to standardize and simplify how federal agencies comply with, report on, and enforce the Buy American Act.” 
  • It provides for waivers of the domestic preference when: (A) application of the preference would be inconsistent with the public interest; (B) the products are not produced in the U.S. in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or of a satisfactory quality; or (C) inclusion of American-made products would increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25%. 
  • Before issuing a waiver, an agency must publish the proposed waiver on both its own website and one designated by OMB and provide 15 days for public comments on it. 
  • Federal agencies, before granting a waiver, are required to assess whether a significant portion of the cost advantage of a foreign product is the result of the use of dumped steel, iron, or manufactured goods or the use of injuriously subsidized steel, iron or manufactured goods.
  • It directs the establishment of the BuyAmerican.gov website, a publicly available website containing information on all waivers and exceptions to the various Buy American laws.

For iron or steel products, including ferrous castings, all manufacturing processes—from the initial melting stage through the application of coatings—must take place in the U.S. For manufactured products, including nonferrous casting, the product must be manufactured in the U.S. and the cost of the components of the manufactured product that are mined, produced, or manufactured in the U.S. is greater than 55% of the total cost of all components (unless another standard applies). 

The infrastructure bill’s Buy American requirements will not apply to infrastructure projects covered under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement or free trade agreements. This means foreign firms can participate in infrastructure projects without complying with the Buy American preference, provided the project is covered under an agreement.

It is critical for metalcasters supplying to federal infrastructure projects and for federally-aided public works infrastructure projects at the state and local levels to assess these new Buy American directives.    

DOL Initiates Rulemaking on Heat Stress Standard for Indoor and Outdoor Workplaces

As the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to shift its enforcement focus to heat, it has begun the process to issue a heat-specific workplace rule. On Oct. 27, OSHA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for the proposed standard. For decades, federal OSHA has enforced occupational heat illness hazards through the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause. OSHA has recently updated its Heat Illness Prevention Campaign materials to recognize both indoor and outdoor heat hazards, as well as the importance of protecting new and returning workers from hazardous heat.

OSHA is soliciting feedback on a variety of issues, including but not limited to: (1) potential underreporting of heat-related illness in the workplace; (2) which industries or occupations are most at risk for such illness; (3) best practices to help protect workers from heat illness; and (4) how should climate change be factored into an OSHA heat illness and injury prevention standard? AFS’ Safety Committee is in the process of drafting comments in response to the dozens of questions that OSHA has put forth. Comments are due by December 27, 2021.      

For additional information, contact Stephanie Salmon, AFS Washington Office, 202-842-4864, ssalmon@afsinc.org.